2004 Conference Proceedings

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Carrie Bruce, M.A., CCC-SLP, ATP
Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access
Georgia Institute of Technology
490 10th St.
Atlanta, GA 30332
Phone: 404-385-1718
Email: carrie@catea.org

A National Coverage Decision was issued on November 30, 2000 (#60-23) that described the scope of Medicare coverage of AAC devices. This led to a Regional Medical Review Policy in March 2001, which outlined the assessment and reporting requirements to support a claim for coverage. This legislation further opened the doors for funding AAC devices and coverage via Medicare began on January 1, 2001.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC-RERC) provides details on coverage, claims, and device categories through online web resources. Web resources also exist, including vendor and manufacturer web pages, which offer information on the evaluation, report writing, and funding processes. Additionally, many manufacturers and vendors typically have funding consultants or case managers that can assist individuals through the device funding process. These resources can be beneficial for individuals who need general assistance related to the processes.

However, it can be difficult for an individual who is not familiar with the process or is not working with a vendor or manufacturer to determine coverage codes for devices. It may be difficult to locate a vendor or manufacturer who can accept assignment for Medicare, Medicaid, or other funding source. Service providers, consumers, and other people supporting the procurement of devices, may also want to identify other devices within a category for comparison or further evaluation.

Developing a database with coding and assignment information that follows current funding terminology would possibly make parts of the evaluation, report writing and funding processes more efficient. The database would make searching efficient by categorizing characteristics of devices based on Medicare codes. It could also offer information on whether the manufacturer or other vendors accept assignment for the specific device being researched. Efficiency is important since most funding sources do not pay for report writing or activities related to submitting claims and procuring devices.

It may be important to consider listing which funding sources might pay for the particular device. A list of potential funding sources would provide individuals with a quick way to locate or confirm a funding source and could include links to funding guidelines. This would serve as general information for service providers, consumers, and other individuals who are interested in funding or who are preparing funding packets.

Integrating these features into an existing online searchable assistive technology (AT) database could present the advantage of information centralization, capitalizing on database structure, and the availability of a large, diverse audience of users. The assistivetech.net http://www.assistivetech.net database already includes a listing of AAC devices in a categorized and searchable format. Using the current AAC listing on assistivetech.net to group devices into Medicare coding categories would be less difficult given that the search functions are in place and over 200 products have already been identified. Many manufacturers and vendors also support the assistivetech.net database, ensuring that the details on devices are as current as possible.

Collaboration with the Communication Aids Manufacturers Association (CAMA), the AAC-RERC, the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), other AAC-related organizations, and funding sources should also guarantee that information provided on the web database is current and accurate. As this is a project that could be developed, input and comments from interested parties are encouraged.

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